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Monday, May 2, 2016

From my Front Porch

Friday, February 7, 2003

Cinderella dressed in blue

Thinking I had a couple of years before having to contend with a prom-type event for my older daughter, I was completely blind-sided when Cinderella recently announced she needed a formal for the winter ball.

"How about if we borrow a gown, dear?" I suggested hopefully.

"Oh, no, mama," she said with exasperation. "I don't want to wear a used dress."

A used dress? You'd think this girl had a fairy godmother.

Since this Cinderella apparently has no fairy godmother, we made plans to go shopping with friends. The "friends" aspect was a part of my plan based on almost five years of living with another teen-ager. In my experience, shopping with a hormonally imbalanced creature usually produces the same angst that can result from attempting any home improvement project with your husband. Some things are best left to the professionals -- or at the very least should be done in the presence of objective and neutral witnesses. Sort of like a personal peacekeeping force.

Something else to consider is nutrition. Nothing is worse than trying to shop with a goofy teen-ager made goofier by an empty stomach. Serious shopping is no time for extreme mood swings. Just in case, individually packaged granola bars can be conveniently carried in a purse or pocket, and best of all, they come in several satisfying flavors, including my personal favorite, chocolate chip.

As if things weren't going to be difficult enough, I have never cared for shopping. In my opinion, with crowds of customers vainly looking for fulfillment through the excessive accumulation of more and better stuff, malls are depressing. Which is why I prefer shopping along Main Street in my local community.

But, alas, even the best laid plans of moms and men can change. So off to the mall we went.

Throughout the day I tried to remain optimistic, but things began looking dim quickly. For one thing, designers seem to have forgotten that 14-year-old girls are just that, 14-year-old girls. One would think that only vamps and vixens enjoyed dressing up. So she looked and tried on and on and on.

Soon, I figured out a necessary strategy for shopping with a teen-ager.

When asked whether or not you like something, never under any circumstances tell the precise truth as you see it. That's right. If you think it necessary, feel free to lie through your ever-loving motherly teeth. If asked for your opinion, play it coy. If you approve, be negative. If you don't approve, try diligently to find at least one good thing to say. (I recommend practicing this tactic in front of a mirror or with a sympathetic friend before the big shopping trip.)

It's a matter of pubescent physics -- every mother's response results in an equal and opposite teen-ager's reaction.

"Hey mom, what do you think of this one?" she says as she holds up a strapless number with an ankle-to-thigh slit.

"Well, the color is nice," you say as you try to find a place to sit down quickly.

"I don't like it," she says.

It's that simple. Sort of.

To minimize any actual lying, establish a few ground rules beforehand. For example, I explained to my daughter that any gown requiring custom made undergarments was out of the question.

Finally, after trying on dozens of dresses, she found a beautiful blue one, but there was a problem. It laced up the back. Eventually, though, I acquiesced, but only because I have access to more than one hot glue gun and figured I could permanently attach the accompanying wrap in place.

When we arrived home she happily modeled the overpriced blue gown for her dad and, thankfully, it met with his approval.

A few days later, Cinderella casually remarked, "Guess what? A lot of my friends are borrowing dresses. I guess I could have, too."

Good grief. Where's a fairy godmother when you need one?